CONCORD -- Two organizations serving the Monument Corridor are becoming one, a merger in part a reaction to a shaky economy, in which nonprofits aren't immune to trouble.

The Michael Chavez Center, a job training hub, and the Monument Community Partnership, which focuses on neighborhood engagement and health and safety issues, are blending and for now will retain their names.

"Too many nonprofits are disappearing," said Mike Van Hofwegen, the executive director of the two organizations. "In this case neither one disappeared. We became one, stronger."

The two organizations are celebrating the merger on Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. at the Keller House, 1760 Clayton Road.

The move isn't being made solely for financial reasons, Van Hofwegen says. But it is indicative of the climate for Concord's nonprofits, in which service needs are increasing as funding and donations are diminishing.

"It's a very difficult environment," said Marla Parada, community grants manager for the city.

From 2010 to 2012, federal funding from community development block grants to the city -- of which nonprofits receive a slice -- has fallen from $1.1 million to $840,292. At the same time, funding to nonprofits from the city's general fund has dropped from $86,231 to zero.

Gloria Sandoval, CEO of Concord-based STAND For Families Free of Violence, is surprised more local nonprofits are not joining forces. STAND and the Family Stress Center merged in 2010, which Sandoval said helped matters for a time.


Advertisement

In July, the nonprofit cut 12.8 full-time positions after receiving $300,000 less in donations this year than last.

"We believe that the merger actually protected us until this year from many of the impacts of the economic recession," Sandoval said.

The Michael Chavez Center and the Monument Community Partnership have worked side by side fulfilling different niches for the low-income residents of the Monument Corridor, most of them Hispanic. The former has offered computer literacy classes, a day laborer program and a career development program, which helped 27 people find permanent work last year. The latter works with victims of domestic violence, stages health fairs and works with local elementary schools to reduce the obesity rate among children.

Van Hofwegen said the work of the two organizations is complementary and believes the two can be stronger united.

"What we do we want to do really well," said Van Hofwegen.

Fabiola Cardenas, a computer instructor, was at the Michael Chavez Center on Thursday preparing for the next day's graduation of students from a computer literacy program. Cardenas, 35, is a product of the center. Seven years ago she came to work as a part-time housekeeper in the center's day laborer program. Before long, she was part of a group who successfully pushed for computer classes, took as many as she could and became fascinated with the machines.

The job training at the center led her to form her own business of renting out tables, chairs and tents for parties.

"It's been my main support," said the mother of three. "This is like my second home."

Parada said the city does not expect further reductions in grant funding over the next few years. The city is also establishing a new community grant program for health care-related services with the estimated $200,000 a year in property taxes given to the Mt. Diablo Health Care District. The Concord City Council assumed control of the district after its board was dissolved this summer.

David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.